Next Year’s Massive Challenge

Back in September last year, I wrote that it’s been way too long since the last time I cycled across the Nullarbor. It was in 2003 when I rode from Perth to Hobart. That ride seems almost a lifetime away from the first of my five crossings back in 1987. As I’ve said before, I’ve cycled across Australia in my twenties, my thirties and my forties. I’m now in my fifties and I’d love to undertake another crossing. (The photo above is of the cliffs that overlook the Great Australian Bight; an absolute highlight of each ride.)

I’ve taken part in dozens of rides throughout Western Australia and even a couple on the Great Ocean Road in Victoria. I’ve cycled in Canada and India and even ridden up and down one of the aisles in a K-mart in Miami, Florida, but none of those rides compares to pushing the pedals for thousands of kilometres to cross our wide, brown land.

It Just Got Real

Well, here we are at the start of a brand new year and I’m starting to feel like things just got a bit more serious. Up until a few days ago, I would point way off into the future to a possible 2018 ride from Perth, Western Australia, to Newcastle, New South Wales. While details are still being sorted out, the ride has been confirmed for 2018 and we’re now in 2017. That means that God willing, I’ll be cycling across Australia next year.

Next Year?

Sounds a bit scary when I look at it like that. There’s so much to do. There’s a lot of organising to happen between now and September 2018 when we pedal out of Perth. Everything from pulling together a team of cyclists to arranging a support crew, accommodation, itineraries and much more. There are a thousand little details that need to come together to make such a venture work. Especially when the plan is to have around 20 riders on the road. I’d love to build that team with cyclists from all over Australia and even perhaps some international riders.

I also need to get fit. Really fit.

I used to keep a moderate level of fitness by cycling to and from work each day but my job hasn’t really allowed me to do that for the last three years. Over the next twenty months, I need to get myself into better shape than I have ever been. I’m going to have to be strategic and focused if I’m to drop a bunch of kilograms and put plenty of kilometres into my legs. I’ll need to be able to ride around a thousand kilometres a week for just over four weeks.
Taking part in the ride will take a huge effort.

I’ll certainly keep everyone up to date with the ride details. It’ll be raising funds for Compassion to help in the work of releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. And if you’d like to register interest in joining me, head to the Ride for Compassion website and click on the Coast to Coast 2018 link.

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Is Happiness Our Only Hope?

It’s over. 2016 is gone and 2017 has arrived.

Over the last few days there’s every chance you’ve been exchanging the customary greeting of “Happy New Year” with anyone who happens to cross your path. Even while you’ve been trying to grab a bargain at all the post-Christmas sales you’ve probably had complete strangers not only hurriedly scanning your discounted items from the other side of the counter, but wishing you happiness for the next twelve months.

We wish each other happiness as we draw a line under the year that has gone and look forward to the fresh beginnings of a new year. We want the next year to be better than the last.

I’ve heard a lot of people talking about how tough 2016 was personally. I’ve heard many despair at happenings around the world with everything from terrorist attacks to natural disasters, political instability, inhumane treatment of asylum seekers and the heartbreaking situation in Syria. Others have spoken of the many great lives we’ve lost during the past twelve months. It’s no wonder we want a little bit of happiness in the new year.

But is happiness what it’s really all about?

Of course I want to wish you a happy new year but I don’t want it to end there. I want more for you than happiness as you launch into 2017.

Happiness comes and goes and we all know that you’re not going to sail through 2017 with a smile on your face the whole time. There will be struggles and disappointments. I’m not wishing you difficulties but I’ve been on this planet long enough to know that each year will bring a mixture of good and bad. Sometimes there’ll also be extreme highs and devastating lows. With that in mind my wish for you goes deeper.

I wish you joy for 2017.

Joy is different than happiness. It’s more. It’s not so dependent on circumstances. There’s a strength in joy that goes beyond the happy times. It’s a confidence that no matter we’re facing, we can go on.

I wish love for you in 2017.

Love means a lot of different things for a lot of different people. We’ve all been let down, even by those closest to us. That’s not the kind of love I’m talking about. The kind of love I wish for you in 2017 is a deep, abiding love that never changes, leaves or disappoints. That’s the kind of love we need during the tough days in 2017.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow, not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below, indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord. – Romans 8:38-39

I wish grace for you in 2017.

What is grace? It’s been describes as undeserved favour but there’s more to it than that.

Grace is not only God’s disposition to do good for us when we don’t deserve it. It is an actual power from God that acts and makes good things happen in us and for us.

God’s grace was God’s acting in Paul to make Paul work hard. So when Paul says, “Work out your salvation,” he adds, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). Grace is power from God to do good things in us and for us. – John Piper

And more than wishing … I pray these things for you in 2017

I could pray for a happy year for you. I could pray that whatever you do, all runs smoothly. A great job, a close family, healing from illness are all wonderful things that I want for you, but more than that, I pray that 2017 will be a year that draws you closer to the one who created you. I really can’t go past this prayer that Paul prayed for the Ephesian church.

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. – Ephesians 3:14-19

Wow. Being filled with all the fullness of God? That sure beats ‘Happy New Year’.

There are many other things I could wish for you in 2017 like hope, peace, strength and wisdom but I’d be interested to know what you’d like to wish for others as we begin a new year. Leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.

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Soundtrack of My Life – New Year’s Day

Soundtrack of my Life This is one of a regular series of articles highlighting some of the music that has played a part in my life. You’ll find a range of songs from old to new. Whether it’s the lyrics, the music, a time in my life, or a combination of reasons, the songs in my soundtrack are part of who I am.

If you take a good look you’ll probably find music that has been part of the soundtrack of your life too. You can also check out some of the other songs that make up the soundtrack of my life.

New Year’s Day – U2

I figured that this would be an appropriate song for New Year’s Eve.

I’ve never been much of a U2 fan but their War album remains a favourite. I saw the band at the Perth Entertainment Centre on the last Monday night in September 1984. A couple of things I remember from the night are that it was ear-splittingly loud (I used to go to a lot of very loud concerts back in the eighties but this was so loud it was painful) and that Bono stopped the band halfway through Pride to stop a fight that had broken out in the audience. According to Bono at the time, “No one fights at a U2 concert.”

While the song is almost 34 years old, New Year’s Day just wouldn’t be complete without this one blaring from the stereo.

I’d encourage you to get involved too. Let me know about some of the songs that are etched in your mind. What are the tunes that bring back a flood of memories every time their opening notes start cranking out on your stereo? Are there songs you love for their music and others that speak deeply through their lyrics?

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What will 2017 Look Like?

The year is rapidly heading towards an end and so I’m wondering if you’re planning to make any goals or resolutions for 2017.

A lot of new year’s resolutions run out of steam somewhere between the middle of January and the start of February but some people do a good job of sticking with their goals and resolutions. (Maybe we’d have more success with ‘new month resolutions’.)

As with every year, I’m sure that many will set all the usual resolutions about losing weight, getting fitter, quitting smoking, reducing debt, increasing income and all the rest.

There’s nothing wrong with examining those areas of our lives but I’m wondering how it would be if we shifted focus. Many of the goals we hear about each year are about a better ‘me’. It’s good to want to develop ourselves and to grow personally but it can become rather self-serving if it’s all one-way traffic.

I wonder what 2017 would look like if we made resolutions and goals about improving relationships with those close to us.

Setting the standard for how we treat others and taking practical steps towards growing relationships is far more important than most of the resolutions we generally make. That shouldn’t mean that those other goals don’t matter but it does come down to priorities. Do you want to start another year with broken relationships or will 2017 be the year you begin to mend the rifts?

Maybe your relationships aren’t strained but could they be deepened? Could this be the year to move the conversation below the surface to wrestle with things that really matter?

I wonder how things would be if we made resolutions about helping those we may not even know but who need a hand up.

What if we made 2017 the year that we would seek to more fully understand the deep needs of others and then partner with them in a way that would move us all a little closer to what we were designed to become?

Do we really just want to focus on making life better for ourselves and those we know or can we extend that concern and care a little more widely? What would 2017 look like if we resolved to care for the marginalised and poor?

Could 2017 be the year that we choose to think more kindly of others?

I’m sure that there were times in 2016 when you faced obstacles that no one else knew about or understood. There were days that you just wanted to put on the brakes, pull over to the side of the road, and take some time out. I guarantee you that pretty much everyone else faced those days too and there will be more of them for you and everyone else in the coming year.

With that in mind, how would it be if we chose to respond with kindness to others even when our natural response is to want to strike out? Maybe that person is just being a jerk but just maybe they’re facing stuff that you don’t know about and could do with being treated more gently than their actions deserve. That doesn’t mean excusing bad behaviour or letting others walk all over you. Sometimes we still need to confront issues but we can choose to do that with kindness as our default.

How would 2017 shape up if we determined that family was more important than the demands of work and then structured our schedules accordingly?

I wonder how 2017 would look if we took our fresh new diaries, whether they be electronic or the old pen and paper kind, and scheduled in chunks of family time before the hours filled up with work appointments.

Whether you use paper and pen or an electronic diary, why not spend some time at the start of the year blocking out time for those you love? As someone who often works odd hours and on weekends, I need to be especially careful to schedule in time for those I love. My 2017 diary already has certain days set aside for significant family events. I now need to add several more blocks of time to spend with those I love.

What would it be like if we decided that 2017 was the year that we would look beyond the physical and material things of this world to discover deeper spiritual meaning?

What if we made the coming 12 months the year that we started asking the deep questions of faith and opened our eyes to the reality of what we’ve just celebrated at Christmas? The true meaning of Christmas is about the baby who was born over 2000 years ago; a baby who grew up to change history.

If you’ve never really considered the claims of Jesus, that he was and is God, why not set aside time this year to look more deeply at this figure who has coloured every part of this world. If you want to know how to explore faith more deeply, feel free to contact me. I’d be happy to begin a discussion with you.

I wonder what 2017 will look like. What are your hopes for the new year?

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Christmas 2016

Is it still Christmas Eve 2016 where you are? Here in Perth it’s already well and truly Christmas Day. (We like to get an early start on the festivities.)

I want to take this opportunity to wish you and yours a very happy day as you celebrate Christmas wherever you are in the world. You may be experiencing a cold or even a white Christmas, but here in Perth, Western Australia, we have a hot summer day forecast. It won’t be as hot as some previous years but we’ll still be up around 32 degrees Celsius which is around 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

It’s a little strange that a lot of our Christmas songs still talk about snow and how cold it is. I can always agree with the first line of ‘Let it Snow’ when it says, “The weather outside is frightful.” There’s a bit of a disconnect after that but it can be frightful when the mercury heads up towards 40 (104 Fahrenheit) as it does at this time of year.

As you celebrate this year, remember to pace yourself throughout the day so that you don’t regret it all tomorrow. Also, don’t forget to take time out to reflect on what Christmas is truly all about.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

We went to a Christmas Eve service at church last night. It was a delight to be part of a simple yet profound time of remembering what this day means. We’ll be catching up with family for a big Christmas lunch which is likely to spread into the evening.

I’d really love to hear how you’ll be celebrating. Please leave a comment or two to let me know.

What are your Christmas traditions? How will you be spending this day?

A day of mixed emotions.

I know that Christmas can also bring sadness as we think about those that aren’t around the table this year. It’s been many years since we’ve shared Christmas with my dad and even longer since mum was around. They’ll be missed once again. For some people, it’s the first year without someone close. Sometimes, as in my case, it’s because that person has passed away, yet for others it can be a breakdown in relationships that will leave an empty chair this Christmas.

Whatever your situation, my prayer is that the joy of Christmas and what it means will still break through into your life on this special day.

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